This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris


Many of us have great memories of summer road trips and lazy days by the pool. Summer is the perfect time for relaxation, but it’s also an important time to support kids academically, socially, and developmentally.

“Out-of-school learning experiences can be extraordinarily positive and stimulating,” said Leslie Gabay-Swanston, director of program and systems building for the National Summer Learning Association. “In other words, summers can be a time for children to learn and grow in new and wonderful ways. This type of learning happens in all kinds of places, such as museums, libraries, parks, and, of course, in homes. Summer can be a time for students to build robots, keep journals, perform plays, create art, listen to stories, explore nature, and learn on their own terms.”

According to Gabay-Swanston, NSLA’s work is based on the idea that “summer – a time that is easily overlooked and yet critical to educational development – is bursting with possibility.” Much of NSLA’s efforts are designed to combat the effects of summer learning loss, also known as the “summer slide.”

“During the school year, youth have access to resources such as books, teachers, mentors, healthy meals, and activities,” said Gabay-Swanston. “Yet during the summer, those resources are turned off, especially for low-income youth. This is when we start to see the ‘summer slide.’ While all youth may lose some academic skills during the summer, this is especially true for low-income youth. They lose skills and knowledge gained during the school year at a greater rate than their higher-income peers. An enriching summer can set children up for success in the school year ahead.”

Sara Noyed works for the YMCA as a youth development executive director. She also believes that summers can offer exciting opportunities for childhood development while preventing summer learning loss.

Summer Learning“Summer learning loss is the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer holidays,” said Noyed. “In order to combat this, many schools have changed to a balanced calendar. While our summers may be shorter, it is still a great opportunity for kids to engage in ways that the classroom setting doesn’t offer. Summer offers children a break from the traditional learning that happens in the classroom and gives them a chance to explore the world around them and learn in a different way. All kids have their own special needs. I have a daughter who learns better when she is moving around and participating in hands-on learning. For her, summer and school break experiences help keep her refreshed and balance out the time she spends in the classroom the rest of the year.”

The best part about summer learning is that it can be molded into fun, creative activities that kids can enjoy through play. Gabay-Swanston encourages parents and caregivers to “find new pathways of learning through sports and even everyday activities, like a trip to the grocery store to strengthen math skills while learning about nutrition. Summer should be a time to be creative, try new things, and have fun.”

“As a parent, it seems like the school year is hyper-focused on academic learning, and it’s often a rush to get in physical and social activities,” said Noyed. “Summer is the opposite; it is a great opportunity for kids to learn academically in a different way as well as have a more prevalent focus on physical and social growth. This flip provides kids a chance to learn through multiple avenues throughout the year, so every child has a chance to exceed in an environment that works best for them at least part of the year.”

Noyed recommends that families research YMCA day camps, which offer a variety of traditional and enrichment activities through archery, rock climbing, swimming, horse-back riding, and much more! She says that the goal of the YMCA is to “make sure we offer a camp experience to excite every child (and their family).”

“The YMCA has been one of my favorite places for family activities since I had my first daughter nine years ago,” said Noyed. “The YMCA offers programs like day camp, youth sports leagues, swim lessons, kids’ night out, and so much more. In addition, parents can get a work out in while their children are engaged in activities in our Play and Learn Centers, which is a free benefit for members. There are also fun family nights on a monthly basis, in addition to family swim times and family gym times.”

Similarly, Gabay-Swanston offers a few ideas for families looking for positive summer activities, such as asking for a summer reading list from the child’s school and viewing the Summer Learning Week event tracker to find fun, educational experiences in their community.

Other recommended resources that can be found online include:

Indianapolis is lucky to have hundreds of high-quality summer programs for youth of all ages, many funded by the Summer Youth Program Fund. To view the list of programs, visit http://summeryouthprogramfund-indy.org/resources/programs/.

The Marion County Commission on Youth, Inc. is proud to support summer learning by hosting a free Careers in Sports event with the Indiana Fever! Youth can watch part of a Fever practice and then listen to advice and tips from various professionals in the sports industry. An optional college fair is also available. To learn more and register, visit https://mccoyouth.salsalabs.org/2019careersinsports/index.html.